In Jewish mythology, a rabbi supposedly created the golem by breathing life into a gigantic man of clay, so that the creature could serve as protection for our people against attacks. My character Rivka serves as literal protection, as bodyguard for her queen Shulamit, but she also fills the role of emotional protector.
Rivka came into my life after an extremely traumatic eighteen month period, during which:
I lost my father, my stepmother, and my paternal grandfather
A job I’d loved changed overnight into a completely different position due to a corporate decision in which, like some kind of sadistic Pokemon, it evolved into no free time, lots of driving, and contradictory directives
The community space which my primary social outlet shut down.
It all started when my car was totaled after I’d owned it for only seven weeks. Or maybe it started months before that, when a rat crawled into my car and died—on my birthday.
In any case, I needed emotional rescuing by that point. And rescue me she did, just as she does Queen Shulamit in the opening pages of The Second Mango. In my desperation I clung to the operas I’d been taught as a child, and I guess Siegfried must have stuck in my head a bit. I wanted a hero like Siegfried, but I wanted her to be someone that Siegfried, unwitting symbol of Aryan “supremacy” and a misogynist to boot, wouldn’t have respected, because those were some things that always bothered me about him. So she’s an Ashkenazi Jew, like me, and female. She’s our hero. And like the rabbi in the legend, I breathed life into her so that she could begin to protect me (and the fictional character through whom I channeled my grief, Queen Shulamit.)
She’s always been written a little bit like a Fictional Character who comes to “real life” to save the characters in distress—her and her dragon alongside her. The universe I write considers her a bit of a legend, larger than life, and her backstory is not only extremely theatrical and “epic”, but missing the diversity present in the rest of the text and in the real world. In this way, she represents the way all of us have beloved fictional characters we turn to in times of distress. We escape into our fandoms, deriving peace from their stories and recharging our souls.
Rivka is constantly mistaken by the other, more “realistic” fictional characters for sharing some marginalized trait with them that she does not have. In the first book (The Second Mango), the little lesbian Queen Shulamit, lonely and looking for love in a world where she can’t find any other queer women, mistakes Rivka for a gay woman because of her masculine clothing and bearing. In the second book (Climbing the Date Palm, due out July 2014), the bisexual Prince Kaveh thinks Rivka, who at this point is not only passing for male but makes no secret of her male partner, is another man with interest in men (whether bisexual or gay is not the point.) In the third book, which is still in progress, the young trans boy Micah reads Rivka as female-to-male, like he is.
In other words, Shulamit, Kaveh, and Micah are like all of us queer people in fandom, reading a cisgender heterosexual character as having some of our own traits, because we’re so desperate for representation, desperate for a spec fic hero to have that thing in common with us that sets us so apart from ordinary society. And Rivka does what any good ally should do — encourages these other characters to find that strength within themselves, comforting them and showing them how to be their own heroes. That’s what some of us are getting out of the fictional characters we pretend are lesbians, or gay men, or transgender like we are.